Monday, March 19, 2012

Mining in Ozark County, Missouri

The reasons for pioneering and establishing territory in the Ozarks’ past can be multifaceted and numerous. Economic reasons often garnered the predominate foothold of this ladder. Ozark County has always held a rich tradition and lore. But did it, at one time, hold precious treasures such as gold and silver?

In the early history of Ozark County, B. F. Shumard, Missouri geologist, completed a survey and a map was drawn about 1855 which shows locations of mineral deposits such as: carbonate of zinc, iron, lead, and galena. Furthermore, there were 3 chalybeate or mineral springs listed in the county. These were the main impetus that compelled much of the exploration and mining of Ozark County. 

Southeast Ozark County, 1855
According to another past Missouri geologist, Charles Dake, “It is probably that this region offers better prospects for glass, engine sand, and core sand than it does in most other parts of the State.” Two sandstone quarries were being mined in Ozark County as early as the 1850s. The location of these two quarries are difficult to locate presently due to this mining was being done 160 years ago, the lack of documentation, and the large amount of territory being discussed because Douglas County was included as part of Ozark County.

Silver & Gold Mines
Gold fever was prevalent in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Prospectors were scouring through every holler, crag, and old Spanish legend for this precious mineral. According to some newspapers, there were reports being heralded from Ozark County.

Wheeling Register
11 February, 1890
Discovery of a Famous Silver Mine.
Gainesville, Mo., February 10- There is a great deal of excitement here over the reported finding of an old silver mine in this county. Letters with these illegible words, Found this,” and with a mark pointing to the East. Searching in the direction indicated, he found a circular opening arched over with close-fitting stones. The finder excavated and found where drifts or runs had been walled up. It is believed that this is an old silver mine, about which marvelous stories were once told by the Indians, but which was lost years ago and to find which many efforts have been made.

Ozark County News
18 January, 1894
L. D. Haskins, of the west part of the county, was in town Saturday. He says the gold mines on Pond Fork are looming up. Large bodies of land have been entered by a company formed for that purpose, and it is said to be positively known that there is something valuable in the ore being taken out there. The value, from assays made, is places at $80 per ton. We hope their wildest dreams may be realized.

The Houston Daily Post
25 January, 1894
Gold has been found in paying quantities on Pond Creek in Ozark county, Missouri.

Ozark County News
1 February, 1894
On reading the account of discovery of gold in Ozark county recently, Capt. Steve Johnson of this city wrote for a sample of the ore, and received by mail a specimen of the alleged gold found at Pond Fork, Ozark county. The sample is of a sugary-looking rock, approximating true quartzite. Capt. Johnson who is an old California miner has no doubt of the correctness of the assay of $80 to the ton, judging from the appearance of the sample, running in streaks.

Mary Belle Green also sent in a few articles that peaked my interest about her grandpa, Wiley Ellison, living in southeastern corner of Ozark County and gold.

Douglas County Herald, Ava Missouri
20 October, 1904
Gold in paying quantities has been recently discovered on Liner Creek about 2 ½ miles from Udall. The discovery was made on the farm of Wiley Ellison, and reports compare favorably with the discovery made some weeks ago in the southeast part of the county by N. M. Smith and those made in Taney County this summer.
Ozark County Times
4 February, 1916
Uncle Wiley Ellison an old resident of this county who owns a farm near the Pumphrey Ford on the Big North Fork, 14 miles southeast of Gainesville, has been claiming for a number of years that he has gold in paying quantities on his land. Recently he had samples of the ore assayed and it proved to be 22 percent gold. He has refused an offer of $5000 for his mine.

Ozark County Times
24 October, 1919
Uncle Wiley Ellison got his new gasoline engine home Saturday. He is putting in a mill and gin at Liner.

In sending these articles, Mary also wrote, “I wonder if he sold some gold to purchase the engine? He also had a store at Liner Creek somewhere between the bridge and the old cabins. It took money to have these things; so, maybe grandpa found enough gold to live on.”

Iron & Zinc Mines
Independent land owners/prospectors have worked small strip or surface mines in Ozark County since the 1850’s. For those more adventurous, men have bored through existing caves, attempted in manufacturing lateral shafts, and blown of shear bluffs with sticks of dynamite. If any quantity of “jack” was produced, the inaccessibility to good roads, bridges, and transportation hindered progress and monotonous in making livable profits. One of the mines was owned by Isadora Bush as proprietor for Newton Mining Company in the 1880’s.  

The St. Joseph Observer
19 February, 1916
Dreams hardly ever come true. A few weeks ago an Ozark county man dreamed he found a gold mine on the hills of his farm. The dreamer had little faith in visions and tried to forget the incident but without avail. At last, just to prove there was nothing in the dream, he took pick and shovel and started to work about 100 yards from his home. His doubts were confirmed for all he found was a rich load of zinc which promises to make him one of the richest men in the county.

Ozark County News
23 August, 1900
County Surveyor, Wonnacott, was in the city last week and informed us that he was just from the west part of the county where he has been doing work for several parties. He says that nearly all the vacant land in that portion of the county has been taken up by speculators for the mineral and that many are opening up and working mines extensively. Mr. Wonnacott thinks that every 40-acre tract in 16-23 & 24 contains valuable zinc.

Ozark County Times
3 January, 1953
The King mine is located one-forth mile east of Bakersfield and near a creek which supplies water for its operation. It is not operating now, while new machinery is being installed to increase capacity, but will be in operation again soon. It is within a few miles of the Alice mine which is being reopened. Mr. King has operated a general store in Bakersfield for the last 25 years but has leased his store and is now retiring. He plans to continue with his livestock business on his farm.

By 1958, twelve men were working in one mine near Elijah which was producing from one to two car loads of ore per day; and six men were working in another mine near Bakersfield which was producing one car load of ore per day. Four men were working in a third mine near Trail. As late as 1963, the Missouri-Arkansas Mining Company was prospecting for ore in the Bakersfield area.

The Alice Mine
Of all the mining prospects in Ozark County’s past, the Alice Mine stood out as one of the most commercial and promising. The Alice Mine was located on one of several large zinc deposits in spanning between Ozark and Howell Counties in Missouri. The Sharp Mine, in Ozark County, was also nearby, and Howell County had the Rex and the G & G mines. It was reported that zinc carbonate ore had been mined, intermittently from these properties since about 1890; estimated production was 85,000 tons of sorted and washed ore varying in grade from 17 to 36 percent zinc.  From 1900 to 1904, approximately 6,000 tons of ore was shipped to smelters and zinc oxide plants.

 Ozark County News
25 January, 1900
Daniel Dwyer, proprietor of the Alice mines, and Col. Glazier of Stillwater, Oklahoma, have land interests in the county, were both in town yesterday on business. Mr. Dwyre has recently purchased another tract of land adjoining the Alice mining property. The Alice mine is the only one in Ozark county at present doing regular business from a commercial standpoint, and the managers are continually increasing the facilities for more and better work.

The Alice mine consisted of 240 acres; it was an open pit approximately 30 by 250 feet and nearly 50 feet deep. Early development of the mine included two drifts into the southwest side of the pit on a level with the bottom of it. Two shafts were reported sunk from the bottom of the pit to a depth of 50 to 60 feet. Over time, numerous old drifts and shafts had become inaccessible.

As the Alice Mine became particularly productive in the 1930’s, it was leased in the 1930’s to Sidney Amyx and his sons. On St. Patrick's Day, the 17th of March, 1933, a boiler explosion at Alice Mine took the life of George Harris and injured several others.

Ozark County Times
22 March, 1934
Twelve Injured in Mine Boiler Explosion
One Laborer Dies Among Others Hurt In Explosion
S. F. Amyx Is In Most Serious Condition.
Twelve men were injured, on fatally, and several of them seriously, in a boiler explosion last Friday morning at the Amyx zinc mine, near Caulfield, Mo., about 22 miles east of here.
George Harris was so severely injured he died that evening about 4o’clock without regaining consciousness. Besides scalds it is believed his back was broken. All the injured, including Harris, were taken to the Hogan hospital at West Plains. All those hurt were badly scaled; some had broken bones besides other injuries. The injured included S. F. Amyx, Homer Roberts, Dave Sanders, 33; Henry Hensley, Raymond Hensley, 27; C. H. Bracket, Herbert Briggs, William Briggs, Anderson Harris, Edward Wilson, all of Caulfield, and Ralph Brown, 27, of Elijah.

After the tragic events of St. Patrick’s Day, 1934, more work did occur at this mine. In the 1940’s, the Alice mine was owned by G. E. Doane and Lee E. Ives of  Poplar Bluff, MO. By 1942, the Alice was selected as the first to be investigated by the Bureau of Mines in an effort to demonstrate reserves and production of the district up to World War II. Accordingly, these properties, the Alice, G & G, and Rex, were surveyed. They were examined in November, 1942, by an engineer of the Bureau of Mines. The diminishing national reserves of zinc ore had been at the forefront of national security due to World War II. Therefore, and the U. S. considered surveying sulfide ores by churn drilling.

A. L. Kidwell, geologist, studied and mapped the Alice deposit, logged the drill holes, and advised on the direction of the exploratory work. J. S. Cullison, of the Missouri School of Mines assisted in the project. Also, the Missouri Geological Survey and Water Resources also cooperated. Mr. Doane and Jack Johnson, mine foreman, furnished much useful information regarding the earlier mining operations at the Alice and elsewhere in the district. On August 20, 1944, the exploration in the Alice area had begun, and finished September l6, 1944, by the North Range Mining Co. of Minnesota; seven churn drill holes were drilled totaling 1,800 feet. Again, more drilling was done on May 11, 1945, and completed on March 7, 1946, with a Bureau-owned Star 71 churn drill. This 2 square mile district was centered on the Alice pit. Measurements were taken at 1,000 foot intervals along a grid.
 The Alice Mine Today.

Though silver, gold, or zinc mining is no longer a part of Ozarks’ economy, its’ progenitors have etched traces of their successes and tragedies in the soil. There is something in their character of exploration and survival that should compel us on today. Furthermore, we should never let the sands of time erase the etchings of their triumphs and struggles, which is all a part of our Ozarks’ History

Works Cited:
Alice Zinc Mine, Ozark County, Mo.  Needham; Kreamalmyer. May 1947. United States Department of the Interior. Washington D. C. 

“Discovery of Famous Silver Mine.” Wheeling Register 27.211 (11 Feb., 1890) 7.

Douglas County Herald, Ava, Missouri. (20 Oct., 1904).

 Ozark County Map. Shumard, B. F. Circa 1855. Saint Louis, Missouri.

Ozark County News. Gainesville, Mo. (18 Jan., 1894); (1 Feb., 1894); (25 Jan., 1900).

Ozark County Times. Gainesville, Mo. (4 Feb., 1916); (24 Oct., 1919); (3 Jan., 1953).

St. Joseph Observer 9.20 (19 Feb., 1916) 3. Access Newspaper Archive. 1 Nov. 2009.

Houston Daily Post 9.294 (25 Jan., 1894) 6. Chronicling America. Library of Congress, Washington D. C. 

“Twelve Injured in Mine Boiler Explosion.” Ozark County Times. Gainesville, Mo. (22 Mar., 1934)